Paralegals are also commonly referred to as legal assistants. They assist attorneys in the performance of various legal tasks. Although, there are no specific requirements for establishing a career as a paralegal, students with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or those who possess law degrees increase their chances of success in this field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals and legal assistants held approximately 256,000 jobs in May 2010.
Paralegal Requirements for Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree Programs
To be able to enroll in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, a student needs to have at least a high school diploma or GED certificate. However, the exact requirements for admission to a paralegal program vary from school to school. Some schools also include internship option for students which provides them with practical experience in the paralegal work.
Paralegal Requirements for Certification Programs
Students who already have a bachelor’s degree in some other specialization can attempt to enroll in paralegal certification programs. These trainings impart knowledge and skills needed in a paralegal career. It is important to know that most employers prefer to hire students with certifications in paralegal studies. Students can enroll in Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) certification programs. On the other hand, paralegals with a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of two years work experience, qualify for taking the Paralegal Advanced Competency Test and may become certified as a Registered Paralegal.
In order to improve one's prospects of establishing a career as a paralegal, an individual must possess the skills that are crucial for this profession. These include:
Research skills: Individuals in the paralegal field who have research skills certainly have an edge over those who do not possess these qualities. As paralegal research involves fieldwork, law libraries, and online archives, having fact-finding skills is a significant edge for any professional in this field.
Communication Skills: As much of the work of paralegals involves written communication and documentation, having good diction is one of the most important paralegal requirements. Also, paralegals have to have good vocal skills to effectively communicate with the attorneys and clients.
Paralegals are required to do a number of tasks. They assist lawyers in the preparation for trials and hearings. Report writing and filing for cases also fall under their responsibilities. Estate planning and preparing employee contracts are some other paralegal requirements on the job.
Paralegal as a Career
Paralegals can possibly find employment in various law-related sectors. These include: